Review: The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore (@harperteen)

Received an advance digital review copy from Edelweiss

The Rise of Nine is Book #3 in Pittacus Lore’s Lorien Legacies series (the first two are I am Number Four and The Power of Six), about teenage aliens with superpowers destined to save the world. If you have read my blog for more than about five minutes, you know that this concept holds massive appeal for me. Teen aliens with superpowers are awesome (as an aside, if you agree with that statement and haven’t watched Roswell yet, you need to get on that, stat). And while I think the Lorien Legacies are kind of cheesily written and won’t be touted as Great Literature anytime soon (or ever), they’re still a high-energy series of books that completely succeed in keeping me thoroughly entertained. And honestly, in a series about teen aliens with superpowers that’s ghostwritten by an alien, I’m pretty sure entertainment is the sole purpose.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I’d been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we’re looking for the others–including John.

But so are they.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York–but I escaped.
I am Number Six.
They want to finish what they started.
But they’ll have to fight us first.

My Thoughts

Although the synopsis is written from the POV of Number Six, The Rise of Nine actually shifts between three POVs: John Smith (Number Four), Number Six, and Marina (Number Seven). I’m wondering if this is going to become a thing with this series. Book #1 had one POV, Book #2 had two, and now Book #3 has three. But because all of the POVs are written in the first-person and the voices really aren’t that different, it can start to get confusing. I kind of hope Book #4 reins it in and doesn’t add yet another POV to the mix.

Speaking of which, I totally thought this was a trilogy until I realized I was at the last chapter and there was no way things were going to resolve by the end of the book. Which is mostly fine, but there’s a couple plot points I can’t believe are still dangling, including the whereabouts of my favorite character. In case anyone wonders, apparently there are going to be six books. Which you probably already knew, but I didn’t.

But anyway, moving away from that, let’s talk about the book. So as I said, there are three POVs. And I’m not entirely sure they were necessary. Marina and Number Six’s voices were kind of interchangeable, until they get split up and you can tell who’s speaking based on the setting. However, that’s a pretty late-stage development, and I don’t think we needed to stick with Marina through it. Probably just John and Six’s voices would have sufficed and been less confusing. It wasn’t really a bad thing, just sometimes hard to figure out who was talking. I had to back up a page on several occasions to double-check the narrator.

As for the plot, it had all the crazy action I’ve come to expect from this series. I loved the addition of Number Nine and Number Eight to the mix. They provided some fun new powers and personalities, and I got excited every time another member of the Garde joined the group. We didn’t really learn much more about Lorien’s history in this book, which was kind of sad (I love learning about Lorien), but the increased action made up for it for the most part. I am a sucker for awesome new superpowers and gadgets and giant explosions, and there are plenty of all of the above. The best thing about this series is the action, and this book really played to its strengths.

Getting to the writing, even on the sliding scale that I use to judge writing (I’m not going to hold an action book about teen aliens to the same standard as high fantasy), I had one major gripe about the writing. Actually, it’s not major. In the grand scheme of things, it’s minor. But it irked the heck out of me. And that is the phrase “with my telekinesis”  and all its variations.

I used my telekinesis to push the plane”

“I’m able to deflect [the sticks] with my telekinesis”

“I use my telekinesis to pull on the tail of one of the helicopters”

And about a thousand other mentions of the Garde using their telekinesis to move, lift, throw, tear, float, and otherwise manipulate their surroundings.

I have absolutely no problem with the fact that all of the members of the Garde have telekinetic powers and that they use them all the time. I would too, if I had telekinesis. But since this is a thing that all of them can do, and they all use it like another extension of their body, constantly reminding us that they’re doing it with their telekinesis is redundant. If you’re ripping a helicopter from the sky, and I know you have telekinesis, I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it with your nose. It’s like saying “I kicked the ball with my foot” or “I picked up the book with my hand.” You don’t need to tell us what part of your body you used to do something. It’s assumed. Stop telling me that you are doing things in the only practical way you could do them.

Okay. Rant about telekinesis over.

Aside from that, the writing flows well, the pacing is good, and the action scenes (which are a good chunk of the book) were exciting. I enjoy this series with the same part of my brain that enjoys Michael Bay movies (admit it. Transformers was super fun). I still don’t really understand the title (we found out in Power of Six that there are actually ten Garde members, three of which died at the beginning of I am Number Four, and we met Number Nine at the end of the last book and he doesn’t do much “rising” in this one. It’s a mystery), but I don’t care too much. This isn’t a big “thinking” series. It’s about superpowers and explosions and adrenaline, and I highly enjoy it.

Content guide: Contains violence and profanity

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (@KatieMcGarry @HarlequinTeen)

Received an advance digital copy from the publisher via NetGalley

If I’m not careful, I’m going to have to admit I like reading Contemporaries. Which just seems weird. I mean, I’m a fantasy/sci-fi gal. I like when things blow up and shoot lasers and travel through time and battle monsters. What is up with me liking books lately that are all about relatively normal high school students? I’m having a bookish identity crisis, people.

But with Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, I found yet another well-written and riveting contemporary that I simply could not put down. Really. I tried.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

“No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.”

My Thoughts

Okay, the synopsis sounds hokey. Maybe you don’t think so, but I do. Bad boy reaches out to the popular girl so that she can learn to love again? Um, no. Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure why I requested this book, because I think the synopsis sounds hokey. But I’m glad I overcame that (for whatever reason), because it is not hokey.

From the first page, a counseling session between Echo, her father and stepmother, and her therapist, Mrs. Collins (who I LOVE, by the way), I was completely engrossed in this story. Echo is a complex and well-developed character, and we find out right from the beginning that she suffers from traumatic memory loss, that she deals with tremendous grief over the death of her brother, that she has all sorts of authority issues and trust issues, and that she’s smart. And unlike a lot of books that claim the main character is smart but the character never actually talks or thinks or acts like a smart person, Echo actually thinks intelligently. She’s logical. She’s quick. She’s witty. She made me like her, despite her myriad of issues and struggles.

Then you meet Noah, another case of Mrs. Collins. Noah has been in the foster system ever since his parents died in a fire after his freshman year of high school. Since then, he’s been labeled a “bad influence” and cut off from his young brothers. And while Noah is also a smart cookie, he reacts understandably — he decides to become the bad influence everyone thinks him to be, without really thinking through the consequences. As a reader, I could see that he wasn’t really doing himself any favors there, but Katie McGarry does a fantastic job getting inside Noah’s head so you can really understand how he became the way he is.

Partially through the interference of Mrs. Collins, Echo and Noah wind up thrown together, and although they aren’t each others’ biggest fans at first, they slowly grow to see all that they have in common, and ultimately get together (which I don’t consider a spoiler, since it’s on the cover).

However, unlike many other contemporary teen romances, the romance in Pushing the Limits is not the central focus of the book (Echo and Noah actually get together around the 50% point). Although my emotions were pulled every which way by the romance, the main focus is trying to get Echo and Noah to both cope with the trauma in their lives and move past it. Echo needs to remember what happened on that night two years ago when her mother senselessly attacked her. Noah has to come to terms with how he fits into the lives of his brothers, who he is only allowed to see rarely, and how to determine what is best for them. Both stories tackle difficult subject matter admirably (Noah’s scenes with his brothers made me cry on more than one occasion), and both resolved in a satisfying and realistic manner.

There’s a lot of secondary characters in the book, and while none are developed as thoroughly as Echo and Noah, they all had their own voices and personalities, and I loved reading about how the different relationships worked. My favorites were Noah’s foster brother Isaiah, and the aforementioned Mrs. Collins, who Katie McGarry somehow made me love even while viewing her through the eyes of Echo and Noah, neither of whom really liked her.

The narrative uses the alternating POVs of both Echo and Noah, and each had their own distinct voice. They thought completely differently, and even if their names were never mentioned in the narrative, I would have been able to follow who was speaking when. I thought it was a great use of dual POV, and I was fully invested in both characters.

There were times when some of the dialogue felt a bit forced, or some of the descriptions were a bit unrealistic. For example, according to Noah, Echo smells like hot cinnamon rolls all the time, and tastes like warm sugar. I get that maybe she’s really into the “Warm Vanilla Sugar” scent at Bath & Body Works (because seriously, it smells so good), but unless she’s constantly licking frosting (which she isn’t), I’m not sure how that scent is translating to taste for him.

And then there was Noah constantly referring to Echo as “my siren.” I get that he thought she was irresistible, but I kind of doubt a tattooed, stoner “bad boy” would actually think the words “my siren” every time he sees this girl. They’re minor things, but they took me out of the story just a tad.

That aside, I still really enjoyed this book. I didn’t intend to devour it the way I did, but I couldn’t stop reading. I only got 4 hours of sleep the night I finished it because my bedtime came and went and I couldn’t put the book down. If you’re a fan of contemporary romances that tackle some serious issues, I highly recommend Pushing the Limits.

Content guide: Contains profanity, mentions of child abuse, drug and alcohol use by minors, sexual situations

Review: Defiance by C.J. Redwine (@cjredwine @harperteen)

I’m so glad I finally get to share this book with you guys. I’ve been sitting on this review for months, itching for time to move faster so that I could gush about just how awesome it is. And the day is finally here! Defiance by C.J. Redwine comes out NEXT WEEK (8/28/12) and trust me, this is one you want to get your hands on as soon as possible.

(Go here if you’d like to read my interview with C.J.!)

The Plot (From Goodreads, because it’s too complex for me to summarize on my own)

“Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.”

My Thoughts

This book had literally everything I love in a story.

The action and adventure was incredible. There were scenes that literally left me gasping and curling into a ball, and that’s not something I typically do while reading. I’m normally a much more…stationary…reader. But the tension in some scenes was nearly palpable, and I couldn’t help myself. I was  invested.

It also was a mishmash of all my favorite genres. There were elements of sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, steampunk, romance, and of course, fantasy. And when I say “mishmash,” don’t misunderstand me. I mean it in the best possible way. This book may have a genre identity crisis, but that’s just because it defines its own new genre of pure awesome. So no, I’m not quite sure how to categorize it, and with some books, that would be a problem. Not here. Defiance blends genres seamlessly, and left me hungry for more fantasy-sci-fi-post-apocalyptic-steampunk-romances.

Too bad I don’t know of any.

The characters of Rachel and Logan were strong, personable, flawed, and passionate. They each had their own unique voice, and I loved how the narrative shifted between the two of them. The characters balanced and complemented each other well, and their relationship quickly skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite YA pairings. I thought their alternating voices kept the story constantly fresh, and I was completely engaged from beginning to end.

The character of the Commander made for a deliciously evil antagonist. The kind you want to slap every time he enters a room, or maybe cower from underneath a table. Just when I thought he couldn’t be more despicable, he was. But he also wasn’t a caricature of a villain. He seemed frighteningly real and terrifying.

And as for the story itself, it was unique, exciting, and thrilling. I wasn’t really shocked by anything that happened, but I also didn’t find it at all formulaic.  There were no twists for the sake of twists, nor were there any payoffs that didn’t feel earned. The story simply unfolded the way it needed to.

Since I don’t want to write a 100% gushy review (much as I may want to), I’ll mention the couple tiny criticisms I had with the book, so you don’t think that C.J. fed me some crazy-making Kool Aid. First, I wasn’t completely in love with the ending. It’s good and exciting, but I like my endings to have more resolution, even if they are part of a trilogy (which this is. Yay!) Would it keep me from recommending the book? Heck no. But I do wish a little more was wrapped up by the end.

And the only other thing — which is so small as to be inconsequential, except that I’m noticing it in a lot of YA fantasy books lately — is the overuse of the word “crimson” in regards to blood. As in, “her hands were stained with crimson.”* This is not unique to Defiance. As I said, I’ve noticed this a lot lately in YA fantasy. A couple times, it works. But after a while, I just kind of want authors to use the word “blood.” Or even “red.”

But as I said, that is a tiny, tiny gripe. Mostly because I feel like I need to gripe about something to keep it real.

Overall, Defiance was a fantastic, exciting read that kept me riveted. It’s unique and special and splendid. One of my absolute favorite books of 2012. If you love a good adventure with magical elements and strong characters, this one is for you.

Content Guide: Contains fantasy violence

*No, that is not an actual quote from the book. It’s just an example of how the word could be used.

Blog Tour: Battlefield by J.F. Jenkins + GIVEAWAY!

Book Blurb: 

Cadence, JD, and Orlando couldn’t be more different from one another. Under normal circumstances, the three wouldn’t so much as say hi to each other if they could get away with it. Then an alien crashes through the roof of their local mall, and everything changes. Not only do the three teens gain new abilities, but they’re also chosen to help fight in an intergalactic war where the next chosen battlefield is Earth.

Reluctant at first, they change their minds when the fight hits close to home. Teenagers from school start to go missing, and some are dead. Together they must learn to work together and solve the mystery behind these disappearances before more lives are lost.

Author Info:

J.F. Jenkins lives in Minneapolis where she spends most of her time creating and plotting world domination – something that has been in the works for roughly 13 years.

In her free time she works as the local coffee wench and dominates the minions of the pixilated world on her PS3.

She’s also got a little man (J Walk) and a little man trapped in a big man’s body (J Dawg) to take care of along with her two fur babies Ushi and Tibu.

She is currently unrepresented by an agency. Email with questions and comments.

Links :

Blog | Twitter  | Amazon

My Review:

Battlefield had a lot of things going for it. First, the premise of an alien war coming to Earth, asking regular kids to help them fight it, and then giving them superpowers. All of this is awesome. I would totally see the movie.

Second, the characters are fun. My favorite was probably the dark and guarded Orlando, but I also liked JD and Cadence. They each had their own personalities and quirks and struggles, and I liked reading their interactions (although the dialogue was a little hard to follow at times).

It was a quick and fairly easy read, and the pacing kept me engaged. I was able to easily follow the plot and the shifts in POV between the three teens and Alan, their alien mentor.

From the cover and the blurb, I got the impression that Battlefield would be full of crazy sci-fi action and battles, and while there was some of that, most of the book was character exploration as we got to know the three teens and Alan, and as they played around with their new abilities and learned to play nice with each other. There’s nothing wrong with that; you just need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

That said, Battlefield did have a few issues that I struggled with. The first was just realism in the lives of the teens. At the beginning of the book, before they receive their powers, it is established that Cadence is not, shall we say, the sharpest tool in the shed. However, as we meet Cadence she is puzzling through her math homework, specifically this problem: x+4=6. She must solve for x.

This is kindergarten math. Literally. I have a child just starting first grade, and this sort of math is what she was doing in school last year. I don’t care how remedial Cadence’s classes are, I doubt they sent her back to elementary school.

Or then there’s Orlando and his abundant wealth. He lives in a mansion roughly the size of Buckingham Palace (okay, I made up the comparison, but to hear it described, that’s about right), complete with an entire secret wing thousands of square feet and multiple stories in size, that his sister has never noticed. Apparently she has never walked completely around the outside of their house.

Then he decides to furnish said secret wing with furniture and appliances from IKEA, and he buys two of everything so that he can tell his sister the bill was so he could decorate a different area of the house, and the bill to completely outfit the equivalent of two modest-size apartments with brand-new IKEA everything is $5,000.

Trust me, I’ve spent long enough browsing the IKEA catalog to have a decent idea of what it would cost to furnish an entire house/apartment. Twice. And it’s a lot more than $5,000, even when you are doing it with sleek but cheap Swedish furniture.

BTW: The IKEA shopping spree? Totally my dream. I’m still in mourning that I moved from a place with an IKEA to a place without an IKEA.

So those are just a couple examples of unrealistic elements that left me scratching my head, saying, “well that’s not right,” which in turn took me out of the story.

And yes, I realize I’m talking about a book with alien superpowers and complaining that math problems and IKEA prices took me out of the story. But as always, the fantastic stuff I can buy. I’ve never been to Alan’s homeworld. I don’t know what’s possible there, or what possibilities he brings to Earth with him. It’s the stuff that I’m familiar with, the stuff that’s based here that I need to feel real. And there’s a bunch of little stuff scattered throughout the story that just didn’t ring true for me. Not enough to ruin the book. But enough to take me out of the story, and I think the goal of any story is to immerse the reader from beginning to end.

Aside from the little details not ringing true, the other main problem I have with the book is that it seems to end in the middle of the story. I was actually shocked the book ended where it did. It’s not a cliffhanger, it’s not a resolution, it doesn’t follow a big action scene. It just…stops. I felt like I had just read half a book, and then it was over. It’s good that there’s a sequel, Control, because otherwise we’ll never get answers to any of the big questions raised in Battlefield.

Overall, Battlefield was a fun concept and a quick read with likable characters. No, the execution wasn’t up to the standards of some of the best YA sci-fi I’ve read (and keep in mind, I tend to be pretty nit-picky in my reading), but it was still entertaining.

Also, I had this song stuck in my head the entire time I was reading it. Now you can too. Just pretend it’s JD and Cadence dancing (not that JD and Cadence look like this, or can dance…or can they?).


Enter below for a chance to win a digital copy of Battlefield from J.F. Jenkins!

This giveaway is author-sponsored and open internationally. Entrants must be 13 years old or older. I WILL be checking IP addresses, and people entering under multiple usernames WILL be disqualified.

Winners will be drawn on 8/16 and notified by email. They will have up to 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to J.F. Jenkins and Heather from SupaGurl Tours for letting me be part of the blog tour!

Review: Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede

I was pretty excited for this book. I mean, it’s a frontier wild west story, but with magic. Cowboys + magic = good, right? It’s certainly original. Plus, I’d heard nothing but good things about Patricia Wrede’s writing, so when I picked this one up from the library, I was anxious to get started.

The Plot (Goodreads synopsis)

Eff was born a thirteenth child. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son. This means he’s supposed to possess amazing talent — and she’s supposed to bring only bad things to her family and her town. Undeterred, her family moves to the frontier, where her father will be a professor of magic at a school perilously close to the magical divide that separates settlers from the beasts of the wild.

My Thoughts

Wow, that’s an awfully short synopsis,” you’re probably thinking.

Yes, yes it is. And you know why?

…Well, I’ll tell you in a minute. I have such mixed feelings about this book, I’m going to have to break it up into pieces.

World Building:

Absolutely stellar world building. As far as the setting goes, this book is Oregon Trail meets Harry Potter. The magic was well thought out and intricate, the frontier setting was vivid, and the spells and magical creatures (steam dragons and mammoths guys!) were seamlessly woven into the story.

Also, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were magicians. YES. That happened.

After I finished the book, it was brought to my attention that Patricia Wrede made the decision to write Native Americans out of her narrative, because she didn’t like any of the stereotypical ways to portray Native Americans in westerns. And a lot of people are bothered by this, and I can see why.

BUT, I think it says something for the world building that I honestly didn’t notice that glaring omission until it was pointed out to me. Even though I am well aware that there were Native Americans present in the wild west, and now that I realize they were missing from the book, it seems like it should have been obvious. But her world actually made so much sense that I didn’t realize it didn’t make sense until the book was over.


There were a lot of characters in this book. A. Lot. I mean, from the title and synopsis, right away you know that there’s at least 13 kids in Eff’s family running around. And then of course there’s her parents, and teachers, and friends, and her parents’ friends, and her friends’ friends, and also some assorted townspeople.

Ahem. There are many characters.

Some of them — including most of Eff’s siblings — flicker in and out of the book so fast, I forgot they ever existed or what their purpose was. Others stick around for a while, and I still was not sure what their purpose was. (Like William. What purpose did William serve, exactly?) Really, the only characters that get developed are Eff, Lan, their parents, and a couple of their teachers.

But even then, I’m not sure if they actually get developed, or if I just thought they did through prolonged exposure, because I read about them so often.I think the characters I came closest to really liking were Eff’s parents, but still, I couldn’t tell you much about them as people.

Now would be the time to point out that this book is told in the first person, from Eff’s perspective, and spans about 14 years of her life. It starts when she is 4 or 5 and ends when she is 18. I do not actually have a problem with books that span a long time frame — several of my favorite books and series do this — but in this book, it didn’t work for me. Partially because of the lack of plot, which I’ll get into in a minute. But as far as characters go, it didn’t work because no matter how old Eff was, she talked like she was 11. Which worked for the one chapter where she was 11, and not so much for…all the other ones.

It’s sad, because Eff really is an interesting character. Or she has the potential to be interesting, at any rate. She is born into a magical family. She’s a twin. Her brother is viewed by everyone as super-special, while she is viewed as unlucky. She undergoes some pretty appalling psychological abuse at the hands of her uncle when she is young. These are the makings of a fascinating character. But she just kind of stays the same. Pity.


Okay, as I mentioned above about the short synopsis, the reason for that is: This book had no plot.

Say what? It’s a magical western with no plot? Well, pretty much. I mean, it had characters, and they were faced with kinda sorta a conflict that they more or less solved…so I guess in that sense it had a plot. It just wasn’t what I expected.

But honestly, if a book spans over a decade in time, and is a western, with magic and dragons and mammoths, you’d think a plot wouldn’t be too hard to come by, right? But you would be wrong, at least in the case of this book. It’s like Patricia Wrede got so caught up in her fantastic world building that she forgot to introduce conflict to the story (even Eff’s “thirteenth child” stigma is pretty quickly solved by moving to a place where no one knows how many siblings she has. Easy peasy).

Until the last few chapters, where all of a sudden there is a conflict, and that conflict is lame. There’s not any real sense of urgency or investment, and then it is solved, and the book is done. And I’m all like, “Huh. Nothing really happened in that book.”

So. Would I recommend this book? Um, maybe. If you just want to read about a really interesting world that’s described incredibly well, then you definitely want to pick this one up. If you like westerns and stories that follow a family over many years, then you may also want to check this one out. If you want action and magical shenanigans and tension and conflict, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.